Belfry Bulletin

Search Our Site

Editors Note

A Happy New Year to all members and readers.  With this issue of the B.B., we enter the twentieth year of its publication and, as hinted earlier, it is intended to make a series of improvements (or, at any rate, changes) to mark the event.  As you will have seen, a new cover starts with this issue.  We had intended to have it on a light grey paper and to have the number and month printed on the cover but, owing to a misunderstanding with the printers, neither of these things came to pass. Thus the cover is somewhat less of an improvement than we had hoped, but at least the colours line up properly. Those few who attended the last A.G.M. had an opportunity to discuss cover designs and to protest against this one if thought to be necessary.

A smaller change. Which will not be noticeable until next month, is that the pages are now to be numbered in volume order for ease of reference for those who collect B.B.’s and bind them into volumes.  (we know of one member who does at any rate!).  On the inside of each page will be found the B.B. and page numbers and the month – so everybody should be satisfied.

The Editor would like to thank those who wrote or spoke to him praising the Christmas B.B.  Much as he would like to take the credit, it must be pointed out that this mainly due to the good standard and large amount of articles submitted and also to the stalwarts who collated; stapled; folded; wrapped; addresses and posted them.  Let us hope that we can keep as good a standard during 1966.



When the Belfry was first opened in 1947, it was agreed that the basic charge would be a shilling per member per night.  Since those far off days, prices have risen – until today that shilling is only worth something between fourpence and fivepence.  Even so, the basic Belfry charge has never gone up.

The charge has been increased temporarily on two occasions once, to pay for the Calor installation and once to pay for the installation of main water and electricity.  In both cases, the extra charge was removed when the items were paid for.

Most of the other facilities at the Belfry were paid for out of the Belfry profits and even today, this is just possible.  It is quite a feat to be able to do this out of the 1947 value of less than fivepence per member per night.

At the January meeting, the Committee, after some discussion, agreed to increase the Belfry charges to 1/6 per member and 3/- per guest.  This is intended to be a permanent increase effective from the 1st of February 1966.  Even at this price, the Belfry is still cheap compared with nearly every other caving and climbing hut in the country and, and in purchasing power, members are still getting more for their money than they did in 1947.  The increased profit will be used to improve the Belfry facilities still further.  After the flush toilets have been completed, showers are next on the programme and this will be followed by other improvements being planned by the Belfry Planning Committee.

The decision to increase the Belfry rate may, of course, be rescinded at the next A.G.M., but the Committee feel that this increase is hardly enough to hurt members financially and it will enable the Belfry to continue its tradition of supplying value for money in these more expensive times.

The Gouffre de Friouato

by Alan Thomas and Mike Luckwill

The Gouffre de Friouato (Ifri-ou-atto) is situated approximately fifty miles east of Fez and is marked on the Michelin map of Morocco (No 169).  About eighteen miles from Taza on the metalled road from Taza to Bab-Bou-Idir we found a steeply rising tortuous un-metalled turning to the right. Driving up this for a long way past groups of sheep with their shepherds, we came surprisingly to a set of six or eight concrete steps.  This led up to the cave entrance.

The cave is over a mile long and a thousand feet deep.  I am afraid that, in the absence of an accurate survey, a description such as this can only be in superlatives.  Norbert Casteret described it as the most remarkable cave he ever explored.  We found the entrance was the deepest; the chambers were the highest; the formations were the biggest etc., etc. that we had ever seen.

The entrance was quite dry and an excellent changing room.  This is just as well as the second time we visited the cave, it was raining. Just inside began a remarkable series of stone and concrete steps which led down the side of the pot to a depth of approximately six hundred and fifty feet.  In places, the steps gave way to sections of sloping iron cat ladder and rickety guide rails of reinforcing rod.  Towards the bottom, we were intrigued to see occasional steps smashed to pieces, presumably by rocks falling from above.  One missing section of cat ladder was found at the bottom.

The pot down which we had descended dwarfed Gaping Ghyll (of course).  I should perhaps mention that the first time, we went down very quickly and both felt quite ill at the bottom, probably due to the rapid change in altitude.

More stone steps led through a relatively tight section for a hundred feet or so, which then opened out into an enormous chamber (marked ‘A’ on Mike’s plan) in which we descended a further hundred and fifty feet to the bottom of the steps.

We had now gone down altogether about a thousand steps of stone or concrete.  Who had built them and why?  Surely they were not the ultimate in fixed aids, constructed by local cavers? A winch would have been more satisfactory.  The steps were too strenuous for ordinary tourists and we found no evidence of mining. I am in touch with the Casablanca Caving Club and hope that they may be able to provide the answer these questions and also provide us with a survey, as numbers which we found on the rocks indicated that it might have been surveyed fairly recently.

Unfortunately there are also many other kinds of writing on the rocks and walls – mainly French but some Arabic.  It is a pity that such a fantastic cavern should be marred by vandalism, but hardly surprising when it is impossible to keep such inscriptions off Mendip.  We also thought that the steps were a pity, but as we only had a hundred feet of ladder with us we would have not been able to go down had they not been there.

At the bottom of the steps, the roof must have been about two hundred and fifty feet high.  The end of the chamber was separated from the rest of it by some boulders, round which we climbed and the continuation was about the size of G.B.  Here we turned sharp left into a long chamber (‘B’) with crystal pools containing water. At the end of this chamber, we crossed to top of a remarkable and enormous natural dam and followed the sloping left bank of some large pools.  As soon as we entered the passage where the pools were, we saw two very large stalagmites.  Beyond here, the passage consisted of a dried up crystal pool about five feet deep with which was associated strange formations seeming to have crystal bases surmounted by stal.  It was around here that the walls and rocks glistened with myriads of minute crystals.

We then traversed to the right of a pot about forty feet deep, in the bottom of which we could see fine mud formations.  Just past here were three more gours, at the third of which was necessary to squeeze between the rim of the gour and the roof.

A plank (Wot! More artificial aids? – Ed.) led us across a fifty foot pot to a ‘T’ junction. Turning right, we came into a high cavern (‘D’).  There were many gours and heavy planks were provided to walk across.  The passageway from here led to a forty foot hole in the floor, which it was necessary to go down and up the other side.  Just before we made this descent, we saw huge streaky bacon curtains – about thirty feet long – on the right hand wall.  Beyond the hole in the floor, the passage was narrowed by further curtains on either side which very high indeed.

Past here, a smallish hole led us to a muddy chamber on the right hand aide which opened a rift protected by a stout steel guard rail and believed to be two hundred feet deep.  How we wished for ladder!  But we were already so tired that the two of us would not have been able to carry it out.  As it was, the hundred feet of tackle that we had brought as far as the bottom of the pot proved heavy going up the steps.

Beyond the rift, a further passage led to the end of the cave.  This account has been largely written from notes made by Mike at the time. The plan was made with the assistance of a hand held compass, distances have all been estimated and depths calculated by counting steps.

Footnotes:         Alan & Mike found that it took forty hours of non-stop driving to get from Cherbourg to Algerinas.  This means that it is possible to travel from the Belfry to Morocco by car and arrive on the third day.  Alan is going to write a general article on Morocco as a country to cave in and is already contemplating another trip if anybody wants to go.


Have you paid you annual sub yet?  Subs fall due on the 31st of January.  Why not get it over once and for all?  A life sub at five guineas is CHEAP.  (After all, subs might go up!).

Access to Mendip Caves [ 1 ]

Dave Irwin.

Many members often ask how to obtain permission to enter controlled systems on Mendip.  As a result, I’ve listed all caves that are controlled in one form or another.

Swildons Hole Call at Main’s Farm, Priddy.  Farmer charges 1/- per caver.  Changing accommodation available in barn.  Blockhouse being built.  Permission will not be granted when cave is known to be in a dangerous condition.

Eastwater Swallet        Call at Eastwater Farm.  Farmer charges 1/- per caver.  No Changing facilities.

Stoke Lane Slocker     Call at Cook’s Farm.  Farmer Stock welcomes cavers.  Changing accommodation available.  Farmer charges 1/- per caver.  Please fill in visitors book if requested.  Cave liable to sudden flooding after moderate rain.

Lamb Leer       Cave controlled jointly by M.N.R.C., W.C.C. and U.B.S.S.  Indemnity from to be signed by the leader and all names on party to be added to it. Form to be returned at least one week prior to the date of the trip.  Key will not be sent to leader until form returned.  Write to L.M. Teasdale, 32 Tonfield Rd., Sutton, Surrey (W.C.C.)  Proof of B.E.C. membership might be required.  Charge of 2/- per caver.  Money to be sent to Mr. Teasdale.

Banwell Bone Cave     Controlled by Axbridge Caving Group.  Write for permission to B.J. Chapman, 1 The Square, Winscombe, Somerset, giving as much warning as possible.  This cave is not open to cavers on Sundays. Do not call at Farmers house.

Banwell Stalactite Cave          As for the Bone Cave.


Caving meets.

Readers will find a printed pull out supplement with the B.B.  An additional meet is G.B. on Sunday 27th February.  Meet at the cave 11am.  C.C.C. permits required.


A third reminder that there will be a photo Essay competition at next year’s Dinner.  Full rules will be out in next month’s B.B.  START PLANNING TO WIN THIS NOW as a fair amount of work is involved.


The 1966 conference of the British Spelaeological Association will beheld in BRISTOL from the 9th – 12th September.  We have promised to provide a stand with exhibits, photos etc.  The two ‘obvious’ subject being Cuthbert’s and Cave Communication.  We must have enough to exhibit now that we have promised.  What about it?


Work is commencing on the long awaited detailed report on Cuthbert’s. To ensure that this is as complete as possible, members are asked to submit any photographs, log books referring to the cave and particularly to the mining and pre-1953 dig.  Members may rest assured that material will be looked after and returned to them as soon as it has been copied.  Please send all materials to PHIL KINGSTON who is also in the process of building up a reference library on the cave.